Charities voice Suffolk dementia fears

ONLY one in three dementia sufferers in Suffolk has had their condition diagnosed, leaving many battling the disease without care and support, an alarming report has revealed.

Brad Jones

ONLY one in three dementia sufferers in Suffolk has had their condition diagnosed, leaving many battling the disease without care and support, an alarming report has revealed.

Official figures state there are 2,688 sufferers in the county - but a charity has warned the real number could actually be closer to 9,100.

The percentage of undiagnosed sufferers in Suffolk is one of the highest of any area nationwide, according to the Alzheimer's Society (AS) report.

Now the charity is calling for more to be done to ensure an earlier diagnosis for patients, opening up vital treatment and support options.

Samantha Dasari, spokeswoman for the AS, said: “It is really important if you have Alzheimer's or another form of dementia that the symptoms are recognised and you receive a formal diagnosis.

Most Read

“The earlier you intervene the better. The fact so many people are going without any formal diagnosis is obviously quite a significant and scary prospect.”

She added: “The AS is doing a great deal of public awareness work, and all bodies concerned need to be taking this seriously and treating this in a similar way to how they treat cancer.”

In East Anglia as a whole, the AS says 29,000 people live with the condition, yet only 10,400 have been put on the dementia register by their GP.

Once a person has been diagnosed and added to the register, they can receive specialist treatment, advice and support.

Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk, said there were a number of reasons why somebody may not have an official diagnosis.

“The most common is that the person's closest relative, most usually an equally elderly partner, is supporting them in the gradual and earlier stages of confusion and memory loss and, thereby, helping the person to manage everyday life,” she said. “This is a tribute to the vast army of unpaid carers out there who support their partner on the basis of their long-standing relationship.

“However, my concern is that we still need to improve awareness of those early signs and symptoms of dementia with both professionals, such as GPs and practice nurses, so that they recognise and record patients who have any form of dementia as early as possible and refer them on to memory clinics and other help.

“We also need to improve awareness with the general public so that people notice those early signs in partners and relatives and speak to their GP and ask for advice and support.”

Dr Peter Bradley, director of public health at NHS Suffolk, said: “In Suffolk, we have an ageing population and the potential for a rise in the number of people suffering from dementia, so improving services for those patients is a key priority.

“We will be reviewing existing services, working to increase awareness of dementia and revising our joint strategies with our partners in social services to specifically improve the care we offer to those patients.

“We have also introduced a County Dementia Commissioning Board, whose primary aim is to make sure people with dementia are diagnosed quickly and accurately and that they, and their families, have access to appropriate support.”

n Memory problems: e.g. forgetting the way home, or being unable to remember names and places.

n Mood changes: parts of the brain that control emotion become affected by the disease.

n Communication problems: e.g. a decline in the ability to talk, read and write.

Registered sufferers Estimated sufferers Percentage diagnosed

Suffolk PCT 2,688 9,110 30%

Mid Essex 1,300 3,206 41%

NE Essex 1,312 2,901 45%

England 220,246 571,469 39%

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter